We have been inside for over a month now. Any contact with the outside world may bring us harm so we take precautions. We haven’t seen the trees for so long.
Ok, so it hasn’t been that dramatic at all! Still, there have been some big changes going on recently, both in the world and in our office.
Before the coronavirus, we would be considered remote-friendly, but definitely not remote-first or remote-only. We have an office and we let people take remote days when they feel like it. Still, we always expect them to come back and take part in our daily rituals of working, playing, and choosing what to eat for lunch.
Although remote-first can be very efficient, we look for employees who will be able to take part in the day-to-day. This is a way of nurturing relationships and, as a consequence, their job satisfaction. Unfortunately, a month ago, we realized none of these were happening any time soon. So, in March, we sent everyone home because of COVID-19.
That was almost two months ago and it was a push in a direction we have been exploring for some time now. Our plan always was to improve communications and the culture surrounding remote work. This would allow people to work away from the office more often or for longer periods. It was never meant to be a transition into a different work style, it was about what can be bettered, to make things easier.
Unrelated to the current situation, but as a step towards exploring remote, we recently instituted remote Fridays. Every Friday is automatically considered a remote day, with people still allowed to work from the office, of course. This was our original test to see how our culture and work translate into a remote environment.
With COVID-19, those plans got expedited. And they got expedited real fast! Now, we’re taking this period as a lesson in how things look when everyone is remote.
There are a few good things. For instance, we haven’t noticed any large drops in productivity! Some of our employees said they feel more productive at home, without the distractions of the office chitter-chatter. Even if there are drops in productivity, they seem pretty justified when you’re not sure if the world is falling apart around you.
We previously built an internal system to keep track of when people are available, when someone is taking time off or sick. With everyone being remote, we built in a few other features and are now using it actively. It makes life so much easier! Not everybody is working at the same time as you and this helps you make plans and respect their free time. Especially now when there are no clear divisions in time and space between living and working.
Another benefit is the ability to organize your personal time a lot better when you don’t have to get ready and spend the day at a physical office. More time for hobbies, TV shows and good books. Plus, comfy clothes and no morning traffic!
Not all employees have the same work conditions and there is little we can do from afar. Their internet connection may be bad, they may want another screen, and their chairs my not offer the lumbal support they need and deserve. We have encouraged them to take their office equipment home, but that’s, unfortunately, the best of our abilities. This is something we’re looking into and would definitely love to help with in the future for any remote-first employees.
The second downside is sociability. We miss each other! Grabbing an after-work drink or celebrating a birthday is harder from home.
As we said, we miss each other! This is why we created our online all-hands. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning we sit in front of our webcams and have a quick chat about life, just to catch up.
It has definitely been… different. We did learn a lot and it has changed some of our views on remote work. Will we ever become remote-first or remote-only? Probably not that soon, we enjoy our time together and believe it creates a more coherent workplace. But, what have we learned?
- Remote work doesn’t diminish our productivity.
- Find a way to help your employees have a good setup at home.
- Give everyone insight to each other’s schedules to make collaboration easier.
- Keep the culture alive.